I was sitting in my ward round meeting at *Heron Unit. Scattered around the room were a psychiatrist, occupational therapist, doctor, teacher, a nurse and a secretary whom patients indirectly referred to as ‘skinny cow’. Because she was… Skinny… And we didn’t know much more.
Last week I chose to only speak French at ward round. The week before I brought an elephant finger puppet to confer with. The amount that the professionals listened to patients in ward round was debatable, therefore all patients either humoured it or were fearful of it. This week I’m just tired. It’s 4pm on a Wednesday and I am in my pyjamas. At 4pm of any day I am in my pyjamas. I sleep all day and do mindless and isolating tasks all night until the time just tumble-tails into a non-descriptive blur. I eat the same thing every day and am afraid to leave my room.
“How has your week been?” The psychiatrist asks. He doesn’t read the letter I have handed him explaining exactly how my week has been. My voice feels shrivelled and the usual silence spreads as I feel the heavy weight of being psychoanalysed.
“Erm… It’s been… Okay.” I respond in an unintentionally vague manner as I turn my guide dog’s ear the right way round.
“Okay?” He asks. He gestures for me to elaborate.
“The black hole in my chest is back.” I exhale.
“What do you mean? You feel sadness?” He probes.
“I’m not sure. It’s just a big black hole of nothing in my chest.”
This is the way I describe feelings because to me emotions are never stand-alone words. They are so much more. They make your body feel and function differently and change how you perceive the world around you. They are the most powerful things in your universe. Plus asking me to summarise how my whole body and mind feel with just one word seems silly because I, like most other humans, have not been followed around by a small gnome-like creature holding a placard to tell me which emotion I am feeling every five minutes. Therefore- how does anyone know which word fits what feeling? My perception and experience of ‘sad’ might be at the other end of the spectrum to somebody else’s experience of the three letters.
Hence the big black hole. The big black hole that sucks up my life and leaves me rigid. Other descriptions I have given include: ‘frozen limbs’, ‘the hot coal instead of a heart’ and the ‘burning arms’. I got by in such meetings by just continuing to elaborate on my descriptions until eventually the psychiatrist stuck the described emotion into a pigeon hole with a name and kept it there.
I was shown this picture recently and it made me smile. It is a representation of temperature in the body on feeling certain emotions. Note how ‘Depression’ is cold limbs and literally a big black space spanning across the torso. I guess my description wasn’t too far out.
Feelings aren’t words. They are novels.